Equity scheme could hit economy

There is growing concern that the government’s shared equity scheme could have serious implications for the economy if there were to be a housing downturn.

Chancellor Gordon Brown revealed in his pre-Budget statement last week that three lenders had signed up to the government’s shared equity scheme to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder.

Under the scheme, the buyer would take out a standard mortgage for a portion of the property – a figure of 75% was suggested – with the mortgage lender and the government providing an equity loan of 25% (12.5% each) for the remainder of the purchase price.

But critics argue the government has failed to do enough to make the scheme a viable commercial proposition for lenders.

When the scheme was first aired in the 2005 Budget, Abbey, Alliance & Leicester, Yorkshire, Halifax and Nationwide began talks, but Abbey and A&L quickly dropped out.

The government hopes to help some 40,000 people over five years through the initiative.

This effectively means the government becomes a property investor, exposing itself to the possibility of negative equity.

The government has also agreed to be the last party to receive compensation if there was a housing downturn.